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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Egungun (Power Concealed) costume

Photo: Susan Cole

Egungun (Power Concealed) costume


"All work and no play makes one dull." (Babalawo (Diviner) Kolawole Ositola, 1986)

A playful, agile and acrobatic spirit once took this costume, lifted it over his head and began to swirl in circles. The long lappets that extend from the top would be sent flying around and were said to stir up a "breeze of blessing" from the ancestors. Such costumed ancestors came to create a spectacle that would "cheer up the community" with music, dance, shock and surprises. Cloths for the costumes illustrate the boom economics of the 1970s, when opulent brocades and velvets were imported into Nigeria from England and Japan in large quantities.

A feature film that shows Egungun helping a town decide what to do with a damaged car is Divine Carcasse, available in the SAM Teacher Resource Center in Volunteer Park.
Machine and handwoven silk, cotton, rayon, wood, and metal: patched and stitched
72 × 72 × 42 in. (182.9 × 182.9 × 106.7cm)
African Art Acquisition Fund and General Acquisition Fund
Photo: Susan Cole
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back, Feb. 7 - May 19, 2002 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Oct. 2, 2004 - Jan. 2, 2005; Hartford, Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum, Feb. 12 - June 19, 2005; Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum, Oct. 8, 2005 - Jan. 1, 2006; Nashville, Tennessee, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Jan. 27 - Apr. 30, 2006 [as African Art, African Voices: Long Steps Never Broke a Back]).
Published ReferencesSeattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures, London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007, p. 45

Cameron, Dan and Pamela McClusky, et al. Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth. Exh. Cat. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2009; p. 26, reproduced [not in exhibition].

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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